London debates on China: The uses of loyalty

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2013 - 12:00am

LONDON —  I like being in this city because I am able to read articles with different points of view on an issue that matters: China as a rising power in Asia.

China experts who have written books recently are David Shambaugh, “China Goes Global: the Partial Power,” Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, and Timothy Beardson’s Stumbling Giant: the Threats to China’s Future.

These books can be said to be a reaction to Martin Jacques, the author of the international bestseller, “When China Rules the World.” Since I am in London, I asked Martin Jacques what he thought of the article that reviewed the three books in Prospect Magazine. I ask him to comment specifically on a question posed by the author, Jonathan Mirsky.

“What should we do about a regime that prides itself on a mythical past on the continuing assumption that all other countries are its cultural inferiors?”

Here’s Jacques reply: “Unsurprisingly, Mirsky doesn’t like my book! China, of course, prides itself on its past, as other countries do (US, UK, France…) and their sense of the past is no more mythical than these others. China historically has certainly thought of itself as culturally superior to others but this is bound to be shaped by and affected by what happens to it in the future. And its sense of superiority is hardly unique. Britain during its imperial pomp! The US thinks that it is doing God’s work, a chosen people.”

Personally, I think that the spate of books to downgrade China is itself an admission that it is a growing hegemon in Asia. It has become a threat to the US pivot to the region.  Otherwise, why is it so important to portray it as not so powerful after all, or that it is bound to fail because of its own internal problems? 

David Shambaugh writes that these books are not written by  “China-bashers, human rights obsessives, anti-Communists, or Chinese dissidents living abroad.”

It does not really matter who have written the books. More important is what these books want to convey. Coming one after the other, the books seem calculated to discourage the view that China is a superpower while admitting its continuing “remarkable economic growth.”

*      *      *

Nevertheless, the debate should be welcomed. One of the best ways to prevent war is for protagonists to keep talking. What is unhelpful in these times is to make provocative statements.  Keeping the lines of communication open is to be desired.

I am told that the article I wrote on the new Vietnamese approach to the conflict of claims that was published in the Guang Ming Daily has also been published by the “China Military Web for Youth.” It belies published comments that the Chinese military is growing impatient or belligerent towards warmongers. Maybe there is an editor in the website who sincerely believes in the path to peaceful resolution in the South China Sea. He is to be commended. The website is managed by People’s Liberation Army’s General Political Department.

*      *      *

There are loyalties and loyalties. Loyalty to one’s country does not only mean making provocative statements and promoting actions that encourage war.

For a country like the Philippines with its teeming poor there is both loyalty and duty to find solutions that will help provide jobs and advance the economy for the majority of its people.

Contrast how the Vietnamese government handles the South China Sea conflict with the Philippine government. The Vietnamese government immediately squelched street protests.

Through strong leadership it moved so that its people would be behind actions that will help Vietnam’s development. China and Vietnam now have a hotline to deal with fishery incidents in the South China sea which, as in the Philippines, is a principal source of tension. The agreement was forged when Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang’ visited China and held a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

There were other issues tackled in the spirit of cooperation and development without abandoning differences in territorial demarcation.

Whenever there is a fishing incident both countries agreed to work together to resolve the problem. This is all part of implementing the Beibu Gulf Fishery Cooperation Agreement, which was signed on Dec. 25, 2000 and went into effect on June 30, 2004. Since the agreement, resolution of disputes has been refined through joint inspection methods in shared fishery districts.

China and Vietnam also agreed to solve maritime disputes in the spirit of bilateral ties.

“Both sides will implement the bilateral Agreement on Basic Principles Guiding the Settlement of Maritime Issues, make full use of their boundary discussion mechanism and carry out discussions that can result in basic and permanent solutions accepted by both sides,” according to the statement after the Vietnamese president’s visit.

The statement “calls for both sides to remain calm and avoid actions that could complicate or escalate a dispute.”

*      *      *

It may help some Filipinos when planning actions or making statements to be aware that “the United States and China are also working hard to build a cooperative partnership. Both will explore areas of enhancing bilateral cooperation and continuing with candid and constructive talks on resolving disagreements.

“And of course in the (Asia-Pacific) region we also have a hugely consequential relationship with China. With China we’re working hard to build a cooperative partnership,” said Daniel Russel, the newly-appointed US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

He said the Obama administration “has placed a premium on trying to build a cooperative partnership with China through direct and high-level dialogue,” in the past four and half years. “This is an ongoing project. It continues, and it will continue,” he added.

*       *       *

I am now on the last days of my personal journey to this exciting city where I spent 20 years in exile – so many things to know, so many places to visit.

One last call was to the little chapel at the back of the house where we lived.  I had gone there to spend some quiet moments when I received news that my mother had died and could not go home. The chapel is in Tyburn Convent at 8 Hyde Park Place. It is always quiet there with a single nun behind bars kneeling and praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament that is exposed everyday for 24 hours. The chapel was founded at the beginning of the 20th century in remembrance of more than 350 Catholics who died at Tyburn during the Reformation.
 

 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE BASIC PRINCIPLES GUIDING THE SETTLEMENT OF MARITIME ISSUES BOOKS CHINA CHINA AND VIETNAM DAVID SHAMBAUGH MARTIN JACQUES SOUTH CHINA SEA
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